Looking Back on Action Wellness’s RE-LINK Program
Since its inception in 1986, ActionAIDS always looked out for the most vulnerable members of our community. After serving thousands of clients, we realized there were more people who could use our help, and in June 2016, we rebranded as Action Wellness. The following month, we embarked on a new undertaking: the RE-LINK Program. Its purpose was to engage with minorities aged 18-26 who were incarcerated or recently released from county jails in Philadelphia. More specifically, RE-LINK had three distinct goals: to facilitate the reentry of former inmates to the community, to ensure participants had access to healthcare and other public service supports, and to reduce recidivism.
For our initial group, Action Wellness was given a list of people eligible for the program and met with the individuals within the location of incarceration. Thereafter, participants were obtained from a variety of sources, including partner organizations, referrals from friends, family, or those already utilizing the program, and direct requests from prospective members themselves. Our Intake and Assessment Specialists interviewed participants to learn about their personal situations and what deficiencies they were experiencing and then introduced them to resources that would help to address those areas of challenge. Two follow-ups were scheduled: after six months and after 12 months.
After serving the Philadelphia populace for five years, RE-LINK concluded in July 2021. Subsequently, Action Wellness performed an evaluation of its effectiveness. During admission and after follow-ups, program participants were surveyed about the security of their ability to access vital resources, and the data collected at these intervals supplied the information used to measure RE-LINK’s outcomes.
Our data showed that RE-LINK was largely successful in its objectives, with those who remained engaged with it for the full 12-month period seeing the greatest benefits. Overall, RE-LINK helped connect its members to health insurance coverage, medical services, stable housing, and employment opportunities. The numbers showed that completion of the entire program and remaining engaged for both of the follow-ups provided the best outcomes.
While RE-LINK was successful at all of its targets, the area that saw the greatest achievement was in reducing participants’ unmet health needs. Among those who continued in the program to its completion at the 12-month point, there was a 34% drop among those who said there was a time when they couldn’t obtain necessary medical care. Action Wellness was able to refer RE-LINK members to physical as well as mental health professionals. For many of these individuals, this represented a permanent change in their lives and a vital step on the difficult road to recovery after release from incarceration.
Throughout the years of RE-LINK’s operation, Action Wellness has kept on growing, and today, we offer a wide array of services to the residents of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Although RE-LINK has ended, we continue to provide linkage services to those in the prison system, including specialized assistance for people living with opioid use disorder. We are proud to be a part of the solution for fighting recidivism – and doing so through education, care, and compassion. We will never stop working hard to enable all our clients to achieve wellness.